‘Premium’ has become one of the most overused words in the industry

The word premium has become one of the most overused and misunderstood terms in the industry and is causing a one-size-fits-all strategy to media spend, argues Inskin Media's Angeline Lodhia

Recently I was attending a panel event featuring a self-described ‘premium publisher’ – whose claim to that title seemed to hinge on them simply being expensive and exclusive. Disappointed with the ensuing discussion, it did occur to me that ‘premium’ has become one of the most overused and least understood terms in the industry.

The big problem with the word is that it has become shorthand for expensive instead of delivering value. As an industry, we’ve overused the term on so many different fronts that it has lost its meaning: premium partners, premium technology, premium networks.

We either need to drop it altogether, or agree that there are a multitude of elements which contribute to something being considered ‘premium’, in which cost may (or may not) feature. With the word now so common, there’s an opportunity for brand marketers to start adopting the definition that works best for them.

Premium should be the term for the cumulative effect of certain criteria being met, based on an individual campaign’s goals. Are your ads brand safe? How transparent are the results? Are they third-party verified, and fundamentally, are you reaching your target audience in a creative and quality environment? A diligent answer to these questions is what should have been under discussion last week. Alarm bells should be ringing if an advertiser can’t answer these questions confidently.

In corporate terms, a premium is defined as ‘the amount to be paid for coverage under an insurance contract’. The recent discourse around brand safety and viewability make this definition a good place to start for marketers wanting to make up their own mind. Masthead publishers offer insurance against brand calamity where other corners of the digital ecosystem have been known to struggle. They also offer peace of mind around baseline performance metrics. But beyond looking at premium from a ‘brand insurance’ point of view, the definition of one of the media industry’s favourite words becomes a lot more subjective.

A premium environment can mean two vastly different things when you compare the challenges of marketing luxury cars versus selling toothpaste. The first requires targeted media buying across selected publications in a contextually relevant environment. The second requires massive low-cost scale across readily available ad inventory. Totally different marketing goals should therefore mean an equally variable notion of premium.

The digital ecosystem now offers an unbelievable level of diversity of publishers, formats and partnerships with third-party verification services. And the technology to prove the effectiveness of innovative digital strategies is more accurate than ever. Given these points, it makes sense for quality to be measured on a scale, rather than as being ‘good’ or ‘bad’, and for the parameters of the measure to differ depending on the needs and expectations of the brand. We don’t accept a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to media strategy, so why are we doing so when it comes to measuring the quality of media purchased within that plan?

This notion of quality measured against individual need could replace the industry’s current obsession with the term ‘premium’. Third party verification technology from providers like Moat and Integral Ad Science exist to help marketers discover if they’re getting value from their strategy.

This technology is continuously improving to adapt to new innovations in the market. Trying new things and stepping away from established campaign strategies no longer means flying blind, and marketers need to recalibrate their own measures of success to figure out what kind of media is going to drive the best value for them.

Whether it’s marketing luxury cars or toothpaste, the definition of premium already varies wildly. Why then does our industry use one term to evaluate all brands and environments? A steadfast definition of premium isn’t universally feasible, but whatever it denotes, it cannot merely reflect an expensive price tag. It’s time we got real and started talking about what quality means to our individual marketing strategies.

 ‎Angeline Lodhia is the general manager at Inskin Media Asia 


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella Asia newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing